What, you didn’t realize Stephen King, the master of horror, was a romantic at heart? I beg to differ. Some of his greatest works have featured couples, from the first blush of young love to the seasoned affection of long-term blood, um, bliss.
And what better time that Halloween to look at Stevie’s ten greatest love stories?
Susan and Roland.
Teen lovers in The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, these two give Romeo and Juliet a run for their money as they conduct a clandestine love affair, sexually christening every abandoned building in the barony of Mejis. Sadly, in the end, 14-year-old Roland rides off to save the world, leaving 16-year-old Susan to be painted like a scarecrow and burned to death by ravening villagers in the harvest bonfire. Those May-December romances never work.
Susan and Ben.
In Salem’s Lot, novelist Ben moves back to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot and begins a romance with Susan (one of the two people who actually bought Ben’s first novel). Unfortunately, after Ben begins writing a book about an evil abandoned mansion in town, he learns it’s a vampire lair and Susan gets turned all fangy. Ben does the noble thing and stakes her through the heart. Someone named Susan must have made Mr. King very, very angry. (Remember, Stevie, the name’s Suzanne, not Susan.)
Lisey and Scott.
In Lisey’s Story, we actually never see Scott alive except in Lisey’s memories. She’s widowed before we get to know her, when successful novelist husband Scott is murdered. But then, just to keep him alive in her memory, she’s stalked and mutilated by one of his crazed fans while getting strange vibes from Scott in the beyond. Kind of gives a new twist to the romantic suspense genre.
Jack and Wendy.
Jack’s an unemployed, alcoholic wannabe writer; Wendy’s his mousy wife. In The Shining, they move to a haunted, isolated hotel in the Rockies with their psychic son, whereupon Jack goes mad, Wendy stabs him in the back with a butcher knife, Jack hits her with a croquet mallet and breaks two ribs, she slashes him with razor blades, and they see a lot of gruesome ghosts. Then their psychic kid saves the day. Redrum!
Leigh and Dennis.
Another teen love affair, in which Leigh breaks up with Arnie after being threatened by his possessed Plymouth Fury, Christine, then takes up with her true love Dennis. Leigh and Dennis vow to take down Arnie’s homicidal Plymouth using a septic tanker truck and a junkyard car crusher. Sadly, when the book ends, the Plymouth had rebuilt itself and was coming for them. Not quite the reasonable expectation of an HEA for these two.
Bobbi and Gard.
In The Tommyknockers, Bobbi writes western fiction novels from her spot in the woods outside Haven, Maine, and her friend Gard is an alcoholic poet. Gard commits the ultimate sacrifice after Bobbi tries to kill him (she’s been possessed by aliens) and dies launching the alien ship back into space so that Bobbi and all the other possessed earthlings will die without spreading panic and mayhem. No sacrifice is too great for love.
Louis and Rachel.
Such a nice couple, all happily married as they settle into their new house in Maine after leaving big bad Chicago behind. Sadly, their son Gage is run over by a truck, and Louis gives into temptation, digs up the boy’s body, and replants it in the demon-infested Pet Sematary near their home. The resurrected monster-child kills Rachel (yeah, he might have snacked on the body), driving Louis insane. But Stephen King, determined to give us the Happily Ever After, has Louis re-bury dead Rachel in the demon-infested grounds, and she’s baaaack.
Heidi and Billy.
Billy’s an obnoxious, overweight lawyer, but that doesn’t prevent wife Heidi from giving him a handjob while they’re driving across town one day at the beginning of Thinner. Overcome with ecstasy, Billy runs over a group of gypsies, who put a curse on him. He shrinks to a state of emaciation, grows scales, and bullies the surviving gypsies into giving him a blood-laced pie that will transfer the curse to whoever eats it. What a pretty pie, Heidi thinks, cutting herself a big slice. It was all her fault anyway, for not keeping her hands to herself.
Nadine and Randy.
Poor Nadine. She survives the apocalyptic flu that kills 99.4 percent of the population in The Stand, then finds her sexy dream dude in the desert. Randall Flag, aka the Walking Dude (aka Evil in Cowboy Boots), is all too happy to take her as his mate. Their first sexual encounter turned her hair from black to white overnight, and last time we saw her she was gibbering in a corner, pregnant with the demon spawn, planning to throw herself from an upper-story window.
Gerald and Jessie.
In Gerald’s Game, our loving couple rents an isolated cabin for a weekend, and Gerald decides sex will get a lot spicier if he handcuffs Jessie to the bed. Not too sure this is a good idea, Jessie struggles, kicks old Gerry in the stomach, whereupon he has a heart attack, staggers across the room, cracks his head, and dies. While handcuffed naked to the bed (before hacking off her arm with a piece of jagged glass), Jessie is treated to the sight of Prince the stray dog eating Gerald’s corpse and a visit from a necrophiliac serial killer.
Makes your heart all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? Just for you, just in time for Halloween. What will you be reading in front of the fire late at night, after the trick-or-treaters are all in bed suffering from sugar comas? And is that a strange noise you hear?
Suzanne Johnson, who writes urban fantasy with a few horrifying elements, is the author of Royal Street, first in the Sentinels of New Orleans series. Book two, River Road, will be released November 13 from Tor Books. You can find Suzanne writing about speculative fiction, with and without romance, at her daily Preternatura blog, as well as conducting an online read of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series at Tor.com.